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Böhm, T. McKee, B. (2011). Briefly Noted: The Vienna Jazz Trio: A Novel. By Tomas Böhm. Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing, 2010, 272 pp., $17.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 59(3):667-667.
(2011). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 59(3):667-667
Briefly Noted: The Vienna Jazz Trio: A Novel. By Tomas Böhm. Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing, 2010, 272 pp., $17.95.
Review by: Tomas Böhm
Tomas Böhm's The Vienna Jazz Trio begins with the central character's consultation with Freud in 1920. What follows is a gripping and moving tale that takes us through the rise of Hitler, the Holocaust, and on into the postwar period in this country.
To do this, Böhm, a Swedish psychoanalyst, focuses on the formation and evolution of the Vienna Jazz Trio. We, the readers, are engaged by these men, their trio, and their unfolding lives. We see Vienna through their eyes and come to a new appreciation of what it was like to be there during the time Hitler rose to power. We come to know their friends and families and to get a sense of their experience too. As the nightmare unfolds we share their protest, and their desperation. In the story, by chance, the trio find themselves in England just as their families are trapped in Vienna. We see them suffer the anguish and guilt of those who managed to escape and were, as a consequence, cut off from their families. We see, too, the crushing impact on them as they learn of the fates of those they love.
Central to the telling of this story is the story of jazz—which the author clearly loves and knows well. Jazz is a major character in this novel. It provides a way of talking about the affinity between the oppressed Jews of Europe and the oppressed Blacks of this country. It becomes a way of talking of the way in which improvisation, central to jazz, becomes a central tool in their survival, and in their ultimate revenge.
Freud, too, figures in the story. It is through Freud, nicely realized by Böhm, that Nathan, our central character, meets Ernest Jones. And it is through Jones that the trio, like Freud, are able to get to the safety of England.
Böhm has found an ingenious way of revisiting a dreadful time in recent history. The story he tells vividly reminds us of those times and their terror. At the same time, it is his story of jazz that, in a way, gives us hope.
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